Tuesday, 16 November 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank the Deputy for raising this important and pertinent issue. I am sorry that the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, cannot be here to take part in this discussion which I am taking on her behalf. It is a topic that I am very interested in. I am sorry I missed that fireside chat which I am sure was very useful with the three people the Deputy mentioned involved in the conversation. It is important that we have these conversations and that we tease out all these options.
I chair the regional enterprise strategy for Clare, Limerick and Tipperary. We have discussed the potential of the Green Atlantic project. I would be very supportive of that and of assisting with working through the action plan. There is a major opportunity from a green energy production point of view off the west coast and into those counties as well which will have a major benefit for Shannon Airport and all in the area. That is something that will cross many Departments.
As a small open economy on the edge of Europe, the aviation sector is critical for the movement of our goods and people. It has provided a key underpinning to our economic development generally, the expansion of our tourism sector and in particular our success in attracting foreign direct investment.
Nevertheless, as the Deputy recognised, the contribution of aviation to climate change is undeniable and the need to move quickly towards a more sustainable model is now fully accepted across the mainstream of the aviation industry. I believe that everyone is willing to play their part. This is clear in the public statements made by the major industry representative bodies - the International Air Transport Association, representing the airlines worldwide, and the airports body, Airports Council International.
Regarding the development of a hub as referenced by the Deputy, the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, is aware of recent announcements by an aerospace consultancy company of a study funded by Aviation Skillnet Ireland to develop a roadmap to a green aviation ecosystem.
She has been informed that one of the key pillars of the roadmap includes exploiting the available infrastructure at Shannon Airport to develop a regional airport pilot, Smart Green Aviation Ecosystem.
We look forward to the report being published. We are, of course, in principle, positively disposed towards initiatives that will enable progress towards decarbonisation in aviation.
Shannon Airport has already shown its commitment to playing its part in addressing climate change and decarbonisation and I welcome its endeavours in this regard. This is seen in its recent biodiversity projects, installation of electric vehicle charging points and LED lighting upgrades. Further, an application for the Airport Carbon Accreditation, ACI, programme was recently submitted. The ACI programme is a global carbon management certification programme for airports.
I also understand that Shannon Group intends to carry out a feasibility study of the airport terminal building. The results of this study will inform Shannon Group’s plans to achieve its carbon-reduction goals.
The Government has put in place a range of funding measures to assist our airports with climate resilience. Specifically with Shannon Airport, over €6.3 million was allocated under the Covid-19 regional State airports programme 2021. Many of the projects supported through this funding incorporate measures to support sustainability.
More generally, the Climate Action Fund was established on a statutory basis in 2020. At least €500 million will be available from this fund over the period to 2027 to support projects, initiatives and research across the economy that contribute to the achievement of Ireland’s climate and energy targets and goals. To date, just over €140 million has been committed from the Climate Action Fund for a range of projects. Opportunities to secure support from the Climate Action Fund will also be available during 2022 and beyond, particularly relating to projects and initiatives that are aligned with the recently published Climate Action Plan.
On the question of other possible funding opportunities, the European Union's Connecting Europe Facility, CEF, supports the development of Europe's transport, energy and digital services networks. Funding is awarded on a competitive basis and information on open calls under this programme and others is available on the EU's funding and tenders portal. For the aviation sector the major driving force towards carbon reduction will be the measures that are adopted through the European Union’s Fit for 55 package of proposals. This package consists of a set of interconnected proposals that all drive towards the same goal of ensuring a green transition by 2030 and beyond.